You are viewing imomus

click opera - Mediapod
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:45 am
Mediapod

I've spoken before about my love for Tokyo-based architects Atelier Bow-wow. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima have been working under that name (and its Japanese version, Atelier Wan-wan) since 1992. Whether they're making buildings, exhibitions or books (like 2001's influential "Pet Architecture"), their work keeps returning to certain themes and "keywords"; it's modest, dense, organic, somewhat haphazard, unfinished and lo-fi, made with cheap materials in unexpected corners. Here, for instance, is a lovely Atelier Bow-wow piece, made this year, a "mediapod":

The mediapod is not only a beautiful, slightly self-mocking visual corollary for the information-mania of the modern subject—I know this is pretty much how I live—it also looks like the dense book-filled rooms used for centuries by Japanese writers and illustrators, piled to the ceiling with books and scrolls, or the cluttered otaku-space Kyoichi Tsuzuki documents in his Tokyo Style book. Tsuzuki traces this back to the hermetic tradition of asceticism spelled out in 13th century classic Hojoki, "the ten foot-square hermitage". But if this is famine in terms of materials, it's feast in terms of information; the aesthetic is one that revels in clutter, and finds the look of raw storage, particularly cultural storage, a friendly and reassuring one.

So it's entirely appropriate that Atelier Bow-wow were called in to style Japan's most exciting art fair, the Yokohama Triennale, which opened (a year later than scheduled) last month. I was at the first Yokohama Triennale, back in September 2001. The main thing I remember was being very impressed by John Bock's installation. The space itself, a series of white cubes in two warehouses, wasn't particularly memorable, though; the white cube is, after all, designed to be completely self-effacing, to let the art do the talking.

This time, though, as Daikanyama-based curator Roger McDonald says on his blog, "the ambience of the spaces is industrial, rough and exposed. I heard from one of the curators that pigeons nesting in the roof rafters remains an issue, and that the organisers had to clean away years of pigeon shit before beginning the exhibition installation". As pet-lovers, though, the Bow-wows have built the pigeons into the presentation rather than banishing them. And as photos on Roger's blog reveal, the metaphor this year has switched from the white cube to the packing case. Atelier Bow-wow (assisted by Workstation) have, says McDonald, "constructed an exhibition which remains very much 'under construction' and purposefully un-polished. No straight white walls have been built, and instead wooden containers have been placed at various angles within the large spaces to contain works. These containers remain un-painted, their structures exposed on the outside. There is an abundance of scaffolding around the exhibition too."



As someone who often walks past building sites thinking "It'll never look or smell as beautiful as that when it's finished", I appreciate this packing case idea a lot. (Atelier Bow-wow themselves call their aesthetic da-me or "no-good architecture".) One of the thrills of these big art shows is the sense of fresh ideas coming out of boxes, the idea of global trade itself, the international trade in embodied concepts. The raw chipboard and wood has a fresh, temporary smell which adds to the excitement of the art itself.

My first exposure to Atelier Bow-wow came in the 1999 exhibition Cities on the Move, which presented density, modesty and temporariness as specifically Asian virtues. Atelier Bow-wow have been developing these ideas since then — the Yokohama packing cases are direct descendents of the design of their contribution to the 2003 show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, "How Latitude Becomes Form", where they contributed "Pet Architecture (Architecture for Temporary Autonomous Sarai)".

It makes sense that Atelier Bow-wow should turn two working dockside warehouses into places where visitors can feel the excitement of the fresh arrival of cultural goods. What are these vast sheds, in the end, but two huge mediapods you're welcome to come and root around in?

36CommentReplyShare

joecrow
joecrow
Joe Crow
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:33 am (UTC)

I am absolutely adoring that Mediapod thingy. If it was about 20 feet taller so all my books would fit, and had a shelf for my laptop, I'd never need another piece of furniture, ever. Hell, put a roof on it, and I wouldn't need an apartment. Y'know, except for my wife and kid.

Aah, they'd be fine.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:47 am (UTC)

The nice thing is that it looks like it would be quite easy to build, if you have a few basic woodwork skills. Not that I do, mind you...


ReplyThread Parent
joecrow
joecrow
Joe Crow
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:55 am (UTC)

True. Hmm, I'm fairly sure I passed wood shop. And the bookshelf I made in class still works, about... holy crap, 20 years later. Some of those skills must be still in there, somewhere.

How hard could it be?


ReplyThread Parent
cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 07:02 pm (UTC)

I'd like to see Norm build this and post a cutlist on his website.

It may be "no good" architecture but it looks like pretty good engineering. I heard somewhere that the Japanese woodworker doesn't want his/her work to be perfect. That to strive for perfection is a sign of arrogance. That there should be flaws.

As a carpenter I use this on my clients when they start getting picky. It's the Japanese influence in my art!


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC)

"That's not a mistake, mate, it's wabi sabi, innit? You're lucky I'm not charging double, mate!"


ReplyThread Parent
cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)

Wabi Sabi, yah that's the ticket!

I'm going to put this on my buisness card:

All things are impermanent
All things are imperfect
All things are incomplete

"Fine cabinetry...but not too fine"


ReplyThread Parent
djturtle18
djturtle18
kleenexed boogernose
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 06:32 pm (UTC)

i want one, too. with a little handywork, i might have the capability to make one. but with a lack of motivation, it's unlikely. *sigh*


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:04 am (UTC)

Wow, the design of the mediapod beats me. That it looks like "the dense book-filled rooms used for centuries by Japanese writers and illustrators, piled to the ceiling with books and scrolls" makes it even better. Was it in the history books Atelier Bow-wow found the inspiration to the mediapod?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:14 am (UTC)

I don't know, I just know that it looks a lot like photos I have of Japanese writers in a lovely book someone gave me years ago — Mishima, Kawabata and so on, invariably sitting on tatami mats with a cat and a cup of tea and a low kotatsu table, surrounded on all sides by stacks of books on shelves that go all the way to the ceiling, from which hangs a single round bare bulb on a wire, with a flat switch on the mount.

They call their style "da-me architecture", or "no-good" or "failed" architecture, and draw inspiration from the eel houses of Tokyo, residential or commercial space jammed into tiny corners, with odd angles, spaces that, anywhere else in the world, would be inhabited by pigeons, spiders... and eels, presumably. (They're called "eel houses" because an eel can coil itself into any shape.)


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)

Hmm, failed architecture? Is there such a force in the design world?

As being the art student I am plus this misserable design year over here(I recently got to know that next year is the multi-cultural year, but the design year got about 40 mil SEK while the next year will only get about 3-4 mil SEK as a budget) I accidently made a sort of "failed" piece of design, or architecture. The whole piece is..... It is..... Horrible! Sorry for no pictures, but it looks like a "wave" pretending to be a fallen chair of sort. Gosh!

And if there now is anti-design around, or well, "eel design". Who would buy it? Would it be missplaced all over? When do something become failed design in that case?

(Damn, perhaps offtopic, but what the heck).


ReplyThread Parent
shadowblue
Mike
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)

The idea of dame architecture certainly makes an amusing contrast to your "it's a bit crap, isn't it" Britishness post.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 02:18 pm (UTC)

Well, I did try to show in that post that Japanese self-deprecation and English self-deprecation are quite similar, at least superficially. Finally, the difference is that Japanese genuinely seem to want to know how they can improve on their weak points, whereas English don't.

But maybe all I'm really saying is that the Japanese are the English it's okay to like.


ReplyThread Parent
nickink
nickink
Nick Ink
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:24 am (UTC)

Got to add my voice to the chorus of approval for the mediapod. fantastic. My wife says she's going to build one - she's certainly the one with the woodwork skills in the Ink household.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:26 am (UTC)

Here's a closer view:


ReplyThread Parent
nina_blomquist
nina_blomquist
Nennen Sie mich Ninen
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC)

Does it have movable joints?


ReplyThread Parent
nicepimmelkarl
.
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:59 am (UTC)

there's only one mediapod. let's call it think-tank. sorry i'm a pessimist.


ReplyThread
klasensjo
klasensjo
klasensjo
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)

I love Atelier Bow-wow. There was a documentary about them on Swedish TV a couple of weeks ago. They promoted the concept of "Micro Public Space", as featured on the pictures you posted. It stuck in my head and will probably be quoted in the future. They have adapted to the reality of these densely populated areas in an attractive and friendly way...way to go.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)

It's strange, with the English I only seem able to fight, but I'm always 100% in agreement with the Swedes! It must be something deep in my Scandinavian genes...


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:47 pm (UTC)

But still the last years gig here(Sweden) was kind of dissappointing for you, right?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC)

Ah yes, that was awful... but not for genetic reasons. Unless you call the atmosphere created by a big gay party at the art school "genetic", and science still hasn't established that, has it?


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)

That day that sorrow I say.

But I didn't say "But still, because of genetic reasons, the last years gig here(Sweden) was kind of dissappointing for you, right?" now did I?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)

No, but it's a useful excuse. I must remember that next time I want to cancel a show.


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)

Would you cancel a show in Sweden? If it was set next year?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 01:14 pm (UTC)

No, no, I owe you guys one after cancelling that summer festival appearance last year. I'll just ask my genes... yes, even they agree on that.


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 04:58 pm (UTC)



Wow! Great! Yay! I actually have had a little bit of a down period when I saw that you had played in Sweden last year.

And it happend 6 months before I got introduced to your music by a friend.

Talk about the opposite of luck, uhm...


ReplyThread Parent
nicepimmelkarl
.
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 01:44 pm (UTC)

old mom sweet boy never tackled the orchestra...apple of temptation glarite peoples: type type type


ReplyThread Parent
petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC)

aha yes we had the mediapod shown here at the art centre rotterdam - it was eventually called mangapod.

there was a show from bow wow - where they silkscreened the photographs from the pet architecture series on white t-shirts.

the mangapod stayed with us a few months - people could leave and take books, but most of the time it was filled with old art books and cheap novel paperbacks


ReplyThread
jina___
jina
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:27 pm (UTC)
It's beautiful!

I really, really like it , all wood and...
these japanese architects are genius!
but it would be ruined if you put it in any apartment don't you think?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: It's beautiful!

One of the appeals of the photos is certainly that it's a little stack of clutter standing in an empty space. That aestheticizes the clutter, makes it attractive. Perhaps you'd have to empty your flat entirely, put curved photography studio-style floor-to-wall paper gradation screens all around, then throw out everything except 50 carefully-chosen books and magazines, which you'd balance on the pod. Then you could invite an audience in to watch you read, and marvel.


ReplyThread Parent
jina___
jina
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:52 pm (UTC)
Re: It's beautiful!

I guess I would never be lonely that way...
now that's a job for me


ReplyThread Parent
instant_c
instant_c
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:29 pm (UTC)
link to Bow wow video interview

LINK


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC)
Re: link to Bow wow video interview

Aha, what a fantastic link! Thanks!


ReplyThread Parent
intergalactim
intergalactim
intergalactim
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:08 pm (UTC)
Re: link to Bow wow video interview

i think they have a blog too?

http://habw.exblog.jp/

what was your japanese translation gizmo again?

i actually just picked up "Pet Architecture" the other week,
it is fantastic. i love the radio station in it...


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 04:52 pm (UTC)

that japanese bird in the hand-saw cave. what's her name? can i borrow a feelin'? stick her on top of a porsche and i bet they sell like hot-cakes.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 05:00 pm (UTC)

A porsche is a breed of donkey, isn't it?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 18th, 2005 01:49 pm (UTC)

More about Hojoki from architect Tadao Ando:

"Inspired by Kamono Chomei (1155-1216), who wrote the manuscript HOJOKI in his exile for solitude, I envisioned a Glass Teahouse. In HOJOKI, Kamono Chomei took along his hermitage, a tiny 3x3 meter space, where he wrote and slept and thought about the ever-changing world, contemplating nothingness as well as infinity.... Through a simple construction, I hope the Teahouse space as a contemporary hermitage or a mind spaceship could entertain visitors by encouraging their mind into realm of unlimited imagination."


ReplyThread